Chakhokhbili (Georgian Chicken Stew with Tomatoes and Herbs)
A slightly spicy Georgian chicken stew in a rich and thick tomato sauce with lots of onions and cilantro. It's easy to make and will be on the table in less than 1 hour from start to finish. Serve it with white rice or bread to soak up all the delicious sauce.
2poundsboneless skinless chicken breasts, tenders, or thighs,cut into 2-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1poundonions (about 3 medium/large)peeled, halved and sliced ¼-inch thick
2clovesgarlicminced or crushed
1 ½teaspoonsadjika (spicy Georgian pepper paste), mild pepper paste, or hot pepper paste(optional)
1teaspooncrushed Aleppo chili pepper
2(14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with liquid
Heat half the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add half the chicken to the pan, browning the pieces all over, but not cooking all the way through. Remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat with the remaining half of the chicken. Set aside.
Add the remaining oil, add the onions and season with salt. Lower the heat to medium, stir the onions well, and cover the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, occasionally removing the cover and stirring the onions. This will allow them to sweat and soften. Once they have softened a bit, remove the cover and keep stirring them, scraping the browned fond from the bottom of the pan, until they are tender, another 10 minutes or so.
Then add the garlic, tomato paste, adjika if using, and Aleppo pepper. Stir well, and cook for about 1 minute.
Add the diced tomatoes. Raise the heat until the mixture comes up to a gentle boil. Season with salt, and add the chicken back into the pan with any accumulated juices. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cover the pan. Continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes or slightly longer if using thighs (internal temperature using an instant read thermometer should be 165°F). Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Stir in the cilantro and serve with white rice, crusty bread or flatbread.
Chakhokhbili is most traditionally made with a whole chicken cut into pieces with the skin left on. To simplify and lighten up this Georgian chicken stew recipe, I use boneless chicken cut into smaller pieces. You can make it with breasts, tenders, or thighs. Of course you can also use bone-in chicken pieces, but just plan to cook your chakhokhbili a bit longer to ensure the meat is cooked through.
Although some people use chopped fresh tomatoes, I prefer using canned tomatoes not only for their convenience but for their intense tomato flavor. Fresh tomatoes have a higher water content and tend to fall apart a lot when cooked, whereas canned diced tomatoes are still juicy, but hold their shape and provide more texture and flavor in this stew. I've tried this recipe using smoother crushed tomatoes and chunkier canned diced tomatoes with their juices. Although both are delicious the diced tomatoes provide some nice additional texture which we prefer overall.
This recipe comfortably makes 4 servings but can easily serve up to 6 people if served with a generous side of starch, like a big scoop of rice or a few big chunks of bread.